Fresh Aire

Fresh Aire

4.0 1
by Mannheim Steamroller
     
 

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This 1975 release began the long reign of Chip Davis and his Mannheim Steamroller Fresh Aire concept. And why that name? Davis took the unusual moniker from a German orchestra known for playing "walls of sound" to "flatten" the listener. Although this debut album is subtitled "Spring," a look at all four of his "season albums" reveals no consistent seasonal

Overview

This 1975 release began the long reign of Chip Davis and his Mannheim Steamroller Fresh Aire concept. And why that name? Davis took the unusual moniker from a German orchestra known for playing "walls of sound" to "flatten" the listener. Although this debut album is subtitled "Spring," a look at all four of his "season albums" reveals no consistent seasonal associations; in fact, this one refers to all the seasons, with a track for each month. Davis has clearly been prone to romantic overtures since early on: Each piece here is performed from the perspective of a raindrop. The track description for January's "Prelude," for example, reads: "I am a Raindrop . . . and I fell, crystallized. One gray winter morning in the yesterday of your life . . ." A solo piano carefully builds layers of wintry stillness with handfuls of chords, constantly modulating keys. The fun of the snowy outdoors, on the other hand, is captured in the lively "Chocolate Fudge," which also makes for a splendid first glimpse of the classic MS sound. Chip Davis's trap drums set a rich and heavy rhythm pattern beneath the saucy sounds of the synthesizer and Eric Hansen's bass. Davis's other instrument, the recorder, is heard on June's playful "Saras Band," adding a good measure of Renaissance spunk. Nature sounds play an important role in all MS recordings, and rain patter and thunder accompany the introspective piano melody of "Interlude I." April's "Sonata" finds the raindrop spying on a first kiss in the forest, featuring several lovely variations of a melody even Chopin might approve of. As if to parallel the passage of a human life, the album flows through the months until December ultimately finds the raindrop as a snowflake, observing an elderly man gazing at the lights on the tree as he reflects on a happy life. The whole concept works wonderfully, with its poetic track descriptions, and musical contrast between the nostalgic and celebratory. Even after a quarter-century, the album sounds fresh -- no wonder this sonic delight has been a mainstay of stereo store demos. An exhilarating experience, robust in its innocence.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Dave Connolly
A harbinger of the new age movement, Mannheim Steamroller's debut is a unique mix of light classical piano music, progressive rock, and medieval songs. Composer Chip Davis breaks the album into 12 semi-classical structures (sonatas, interludes, even a disguised passacaglia) that match up to the seasons, rendering Fresh Aire a concept album about nature and life. Most of the music is played by Jackson Berkey, dubbing piano, harpsichord, and synthesizers atop one another with a minimal rhythm section from Davis and Eric Hansen. At its spaciest, Fresh Aire sounds like Keith Emerson or Camel; when the band's in a medieval mood, Gentle Giant (notably "Talybont") comes to mind. Audiophiles took a real shine to Mannheim Steamroller, both for the superior album packaging and the clean sound (if memory serves, American Gramaphone used to charge on the high side for their LPs). As CD technology was introduced, the Fresh Aire series was reissued and became a popular demo for its inoffensive high-mindedness as much as its dynamic range. While sections of Fresh Aire are very pretty, the frequent interludes cost the album its momentum (and are a full half of the months really sad?). When Mannheim Steamroller cuts loose -- as on "Rondo," "Chocolate Fudge," and "Saras Band" -- they're a hoot. The solo piano passages are all right, but listeners would do better to turn to budding ambient composers (Brian Eno), electronic acts (Tangerine Dream), and the original masters (Claude Debussy, Sergei Rachmaninoff) themselves. Then again, a mix of medieval prog and mawkish piano melodies might be just what you're looking for.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/12/2000
Label:
American Gramaphone
UPC:
0012805500128
catalogNumber:
5001
Rank:
5541

Related Subjects

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Mannheim Steamroller   Primary Artist
Jackson Berkey   Keyboards
Paul Todd   Strings
Chip Davis   Drums,Recorder
Hugh Brown   Strings
Bill Buntain   Trombone
Eric Hansen   Bass
Denny Schneider   Trumpet
Don Sears   Synthesizer
Mortimer Alpert   Strings
Dorothy Brown   Strings
Miriam Duffelmeyer   Strings
Ginni Eldred   Strings
Lucinda Gladics   Strings
James Hammond   Strings
Jean Hassel   Strings
Joe Landes   Strings
Beth McCollum   Strings
Merton Shatzkin   Strings
Alex Sokol   Strings
Karl Lyon   Strings
Bob Malec   Strings
Virginia Moriarity   Strings
Dorothy Rendina   Strings
Joe Rosenstein   Strings
Jess Stern   Strings
Larry Sutton   Strings
Charles Davis   Drums,Recorder

Technical Credits

Chip Davis   Arranger,Producer
Jeff Schiller   Engineer
Don Sears   Programming,Producer,Engineer
Ron Ubel   Engineer
Carol Davis   Art Direction
Charles Davis   Producer
Bill Fries   Poetry

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Fresh Aire 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago